The short: 4/5 ✦. An excellent beginning to another exciting and hilarious mythology series from Rick Riordan.
I admit that I’m feeling a little defensive about this book. Now, is it fantastic? Not particularly. Is the best book in the entire world? Not really. DOES IT BEAT THE NEVERENDING STORY OR HARRY POTTER? Of course not! But it’s still good!
I’ve seen a lot of criticism about it being too similar to the Percy Jackson series, and no offense, but . . . isn’t that what Riordan fans wanted? Isn’t that why we read The Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus? Yes, Riordan has formulaic writing, but surely that’s what we’ve come to expect if we like his books, right? And I would argue that his writing has gotten much better over the years – as it should. You can tell that he’s learned a lot from his fans and their requests for what they would like to see in his books, especially more diversity. And I think he delivered. We have Sam, who’s Arab American; an African American dwarf with a penchant for fashion; and a deaf elf practicing forbidden magic – not to mention loads of other interesting side characters along the way. And it’s all very naturally and realistically presented; I don’t get the impression he was checking off boxes on a “DIVERSITY” checklist (and yes, I’ve read books like that). Despite all the fantasy magical stuff, he’s reflecting the real world, where his very real fans are living.
As for everything else, yeah, there’s a quest and destiny talk and gods that don’t act at all godly and ridiculous monsters, but I was expecting all that. I wanted that – it’s why I picked up the book! (The only thing I found off-putting were the meta references to Percy Jackson series and that Annabeth was related to Magnus – I like keeping my literary universes separate, please.) And no, I don’t think that Magnus is a Percy or Jason copy; he’s snarky, to be sure, but pretty much all the characters are like that, and Magnus has this quiet meditativeness that Jason and Percy don’t have. He’s not a fighter and doesn’t want to be. He’s more thoughtful and contemplative, and lacks a troublesome temper. He’s also way more willing to trust his friends, which is a bit of relief, if you ask me. Family and friendship are always big themes in Riordan’s works, and Magnus really exemplifies that in everything he does, which is quite refreshing. And I think Sam is my favorite of all the main female characters; unlike Annabeth and the others, she’s nicer, if I may be so vague. Yeah, she’ll rip your arm off if you cross her, but it’s less about anger and more about duty and loyalty. She’s about justice, and she works well with Magnus in a team.
Basically, I quite enjoyed myself reading this book; I laughed out loud a couple times, it’s just ridiculous amounts of fun, even with the more serious, contemplative aspects. Despite its length, it’s pretty tightly written, with no extraneous plot information or backstory. Nothing goes too overboard, even when dealing with topics like death and sacrifice. (It’s Riordan, it’s not a spoiler that characters are gonna die.) Riordan knows what he’s doing, and he does it well. I, for one, am looking forward to the rest of the series!
Header image: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard) by Rick Riordan, published October 6th 2015 by Disney – Hyperion Books.